Thursday, 25 October 2018

The Clock Strikes Twelve

The Clock Strikes Twelve (Miss Silver, #7)The Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When this was written in the 1940s Patricia Wentworth was as popular with readers as Agatha Christie was, and it’s easy to see why, for it belongs to the needle-clicking spinster who runs rings around the police trope.

On New Year’s Eve 1940 the head of a large, well-to-do English family announces at dinner that one of their number has betrayed them. He doesn’t say who or how, but he proposes to sit in his study till midnight, waiting for the guilty party to come and confess. I expect you can guess what happens. As luck would have it, Miss Maud Silver is staying in town with her niece. She agrees to investigate at the family’s request—though not everyone is happy with this.

So what can you expect? It’s a densely-written narrative in the third person, with different people’s emotions on show as we move through a single scene. In a lesser writer’s hands this could be a mess, but Wentworth makes it work for her, and the overall effect has a film-like quality, like a camera moving slowly round a room.

Where this doesn’t work well is at the beginning of the book. The family is large, and it feels like you’ve been dumped at a party where you know no one at all. Even if you manage to learn the odd name, you’re never given the chance to see how these people relate to each other. Though it seems to come right by chapter six, a family tree at the beginning of the book would have been a very welcome addition.

The plot is really rather good, and you’ll be delighted to know that Wentworth sets traps for people like me, who vainly consider themselves to be hardened armchair detectives. The characters are enjoyable enough, though their dialogue does tend to err on the side of Noel Coward. Miss Silver’s continual coughing worried me terribly. I’m a very heavy smoker and it was even worse than mine. And what awful sexist drivel they come out with at times! “No man can really believe how irrelevant a woman’s mind can be”! Hmmm.

So, is Miss Silver another Miss Marple? Well, yes and no. Miss Marple is an observer of human nature, and her logic is nearly always quite simple. When she coughs, it’s to point something out. Miss Silver, on the other hand, may be an observer of human nature, but her logic, though good, is complex in the extreme. When she coughs, it’s to announce she’s going to speak. Nearly every single time, in fact.

On the whole I still quite enjoyed this book. But what did you think?

View all my reviews

Monday, 1 October 2018

Monthly Post: October 2018
Publishing – is there any future in it?

The Bridge of Dead Things (The Involuntary Medium, #1)The Bridge of Dead Things (The Involuntary Medium, #1) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.12 of 5 stars

I started this series of posts by reflecting on the current state of publishing. We are mired in a marketplace that is grossly oversaturated, and—given humankind’s desire to express itself, combined with tools that make it ever easier to do just that—we are probably going to remain that way for some years to come. Along with the other two million authors to publish this year, you’ll be struggling to get your book noticed at all. In such circumstances you are unlikely to have a best-selling title on your hands without a huge amount of luck, a huge amount of help, and massive support for you on social media. But then there’s that nagging voice at the back of your head always whispering, “But it might just happen, mightn’t it?” Read on…

This month’s giveaway is a free download of The Bridge of Dead Things. A working-class Victorian girl discovers she has a unique if unwanted power and is soon drawn into a world of seances, ghost grabbers…and murderers. Offer ends on October 31st 2018.

“A fantastically detailed historical fiction novel ~ rich with period details, colorful characters, AND a very gripping ghostly tale. Read this book, you will not be disappointed.”—Paula Fetty-King Smashwords Reviewer (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes, on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow